Saturday, February 16

Era of High Density optical media begins (The War has ended!)

Not to be mistaken with the HD-DVD format, today actually marks the day when Blu-Ray will thrive as the one format to rule them all... If you haven't heard, Toshiba finally raised the white flag, and is ditching HD-DVD production after the long battle with Blu-Ray camp led by Sony.

Read more here: Toshiba to give up on HD DVD, end format war (Reuters)

Among the latest contributors that delivered the coffin to DVD Forum camp (chaired by Toshiba) was the exclusive adoption of Blu-Ray by Wal-Mart and Netflix, two of the biggest DVD distribution outlets in the US -- retail and online rental respectively, through back-to-back announcements earlier this week.

IMO though, the single biggest contributing factor was Sony's push of Blu-Ray into its popular Playstation 3 not long ago, when Microsoft, the backer of Toshiba's HD-DVD failed to get people excited enough with its support for Xbox. Now that Toshiba has calling it quit, I wonder how Microsoft would respond amid its lost in pushing its HDi vs. Java BD-J software support -- What a beating I must say for having failed in its initial bold attempt to consolidate Yahoo! in its fight against Google.

I remember the 'old days' when I get to jump into DVD craze quite early more than ten years ago (around 1997) being a fan of rental service by Hollywood Video (formerly Video Watch, and later acquired into the now-troubled Movie Gallery) and Blockbuster, and naturally Netflix (in 1999, immediately when this online company introduced flat-rate rental) -- Malaysians took longer before adopting DVDs as I remember how VCDs were still overly popular some five years ago ~ 2003 when there weren't many low-cost DVD players or media in the local market yet. In fact, when I first bought my first DVD recorder (among world's first, single-layer dual-format) in 2002, that piece retails around RM 1,000 (about 10 times what the latest ones cost each today), and it only does 2.4x maximum for DVD+R and 1x for DVD-R/RW. And it took quite a number of years before the price for the blank media drops from about RM20 a piece down to RM0.50 today.

But then, back when a 20GB hard drive was decent, a 4.7GB DVD for backup purpose was great. Today however when the 160GB hard drive that my laptop sports keep being marked with 'red alert' by Vista when viewed under Windows Explorer, a 4.37GiB or 7.95GiB dual layer DVD media no longer seems ideal for backup purpose -- a complete hard drive backup would take at least four DVDs up to ten or more compared to 1-2 pieces five years back. And hard drives keep growing fast in size with the latest in the market reaching 1TB (1000GB) or larger, but DVD continued to be stuck at as little as under 1% in comparative size.

...all while we already have successors to the poor old DVD! But unlike DVD format war that was quickly ended back around 1995 (by similar culprits: Sony-Philips MMC vs. Toshiba SuperDensity which settled the other way round toward Toshiba & gang's specifications), the HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray went on for nearly five years from 2003, with respective finalized versions for both formats since late 2006. The result for consumers: instead of the billion plus people who get to enjoy DVD today, only the few million people get to their hands on either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray all these years. And people like me only settled for a Lightscribe-capable feature as a good upgrade to our 16x DVD writers.

But cheers, that sad story is about to change... Soon, the players, the writers and the media will drop in prices, although it's not certain how long that would be before they can be really affordable for average Malaysians. The key driving factor would be the content, and before the 'major distribution channel' (psst!) start pushing Blu-Ray discs vs. the archaic DVD ones (on the streets...), I doubt people would start flocking to buy the players yet.

Check out: A search for "blu-ray" at eBay Malaysia only return a result from a single seller selling Spiderman 3 disc set for RM190+. There seems to be over 8,000 products from International sellers though. Time to start dropping by Lowyat and major electronic outlets now... Heck, maybe I should start dealing these stuff ;)

I personally am looking forward to buy a Blu-ray writer that can work ideally for backup purpose, but until the media price drops to around RM10 or less (long way to go, huh?), I'd have to take some time to consider... ;)

Feeling Blu yet? And will Apple come up with one soon, so I can start ditching my annoying Vista machines...?

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